A press conference on Friday revealed the perilous split in the top judicial institution of the country when four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court took on Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra accusing him of indulging in serious irregularities in the administration of the apex court. The unprecedented move pitted Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph against CJI Misra.

Raising doubts over the CJI’s intent in allocation of certain cases to his preferred benches, the four judges have maintained that while he is well within his rights to decide on the roster, they have also pointed out a well-established judicial principal – “Chief Justice is the first among the equals, nothing more or nothing less”. (ALSO READ – CJI Unlikely to Introduce Any Changes at Supreme Court, Claims Report)

In a letter sent to CJI Misra a couple of months back, the four judges have claimed that “there have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this Court selectively to the members of their preference” without any basis for such assignment”. “We are not mentioning details to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent,” the letter reads.

Democracy rests on four pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary and a free and independent press. While legislature, executive and press have been in the firing line for the past several years over their intentional and unintentional vice and misconduct, it is the first time that the judiciary is facing such a momentous crisis.

How will it impact to the Custodians of Constitution? Such an unprecedented move often brings unprecedented consequences and the ramifications of the judges’ outburst will also have a bearing on country and other democratic institutions. [Also read: How a Supreme Court Judge is Removed from His Office ]

The contents of the letter do not matter but the form of the dissent within the top ranks of the judiciary.  The world’s largest democracy is under threat if the apex court of the country is not united. While there are arguments and counter-arguments on the conduct of the CJI as well as the four judges, some grave and uncomfortable questions raised by the latter. Our judicial system has had its share of controversies and remedial measures have been suggested from time to time to fix the lacuna to ensure the confidence of the country in the courts. But Friday’s revolt will shake people’s confidence in our judiciary which has been the bedrock of our vibrant democracy.

One of the basic tenets of jurisprudence is a quote by English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller – “Be ye ever so high, still the Law is above Thee”. This principal applies to the judges too. [Also read: Justice Brijgopal Loya’s Mysterious Death a Serious Issue: Supreme Court]

My Lord is not above doubts. The court of law is the last resort of the commoners, hence, the judges, and most importantly, the CJI should be like Caesar’s wife. With the skeletons tumbling out its confines, the judiciary is in the dock.

Disclaimer—The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India.com.